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Computer One Hardcover – Nov 1997

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd; 1 edition (November 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714530336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714530338
  • Product Dimensions: 22.3 x 14.1 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,383,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Kirkus Reviews

Acclaimed for his two recent novels, The Rationalist (1994) and Gents (1997), British writer Collins shows a less subtle side with this publication of an earlier work, a talky apocalyptic tale first published in 1993 in England. In the 21st century, humankind's main problem has to do with increased leisure time--and how to fill it--since a massively networked supercomputer, Computer One, has taken over everything from climate control to its own maintenance. Utopia proves a delusion, however, when biology professor Yakuda, in an address to a symposium on leisure, neatly links Darwin, Konrad Lorenz, and a sudden increase in atmospheric radioactivity to suggest that the master computer--which, since it's self-replicating, is now by definition a species itself--is taking steps to eliminate its main rival, Homo sapiens. Yakuda and a colleague are attacked soon thereafter when mirrors, part of a solar-power station, focus on them as they go for a stroll: Yakuda's friend is fried, but Yakuda himself, only partially burned, is rescued by ``externals,'' members of a separatist community who belong to a larger network of anti-computer groups living underground and avoiding contact with surface dwellers. When the professor recovers, he makes his rescuers aware of their peril, but it's not until a neighboring group of externals is wiped out by a virus, despite their precautions, that his warning hits home. Yakuda and a team of anti- computer specialists race to devise a means to fight Computer One; as they do, he has to watch not only his former society, but all animal and plant life, systematically exterminated. A supervirus finally renders Computer One nonfunctional--but Yakuda and his team return to base to find that an all-too-human tragedy has struck. A chilling story, but one has to look beyond the talking heads and an Ayn Rand style of pontificating to appreciate it. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa627251c) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa712a390) out of 5 stars Great read on why conflict with AI is likely Jan. 3 2013
By William Hertling - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read Computer One a year ago, as part of an ongoing effort to read every fictional novel that deals seriously with the themes of AI emergence, AI-human relationships, and AI culture.

In Computer One, Warwick Collins lays out a compelling argument for why it's likely that AI would try to preemptively wipe out humans. I think it's an important read in the field of AI. It's a fun read, and although some complain that it's too philosophical or "talky", if you enjoy novels by Cory Doctorow or The Lifecycle of Software Object by Ted Chiang, you'll enjoy Computer One.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9371168) out of 5 stars Fear and loathing in cyberspace Nov. 19 2007
By Cecil Bothwell - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A disturbing novel. COMPUTER ONE is the fictionalization of the author's fear that the single global computer now being forged (by the linking of machines via the Web) will very rationally decide that humans are a threat. Drawing on aggression theory he observes that offensive action is often the most intelligent defense, and that the combination of self-diagnosis and repair (already a fact for many computers) and very high intelligence will inevitably lead to pre-emptive strikes against us. He posits that such a decision may very well come within the next fifty years, by which time the life-support systems of humanity will be largely computerized and therefore within reach of the new electronic specie we have fashioned. Collins believes we need to act soon to install an "off" switch on the Internet, and in a thoughtful introduction discusses the difficulty in actually achieving such a goal through international diplomacy and treaties. Who would control such a switch? What rules might govern its use? The story itself is compelling, though not superbly told -- more to be appreciated as a terrifying illustration of a very real possible future than as great fiction. But, the argument rings true. The reader will never again be entirely sanguine about the Info Superhighway.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5e039c0) out of 5 stars A taut, self-consistent essay on near-future AI challenge Sept. 3 1998
By Jerry Mossbarger - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent piece of writing, even a tour de force, powered by skillful development of the plot to the nearly inexorable conclusion of doom. If you accept the author's premise, i.e., ongoing expansion of networked computers and systems over the next 40-50 years(including final net-control of world energy sources and production) and a biological interpretation of how such a net might advance to AI complexity (the whole becomes something greater than the sum of its parts), his conclusion is frighteningly logical and realistic. I enjoyed the author's economy of style. The story is tightly focused on one player: a biology professor named Yakuda who is able to deduce the dangers of the autonomous world-net, called Computer One, from his studies of insect colonies. Be sure to read the author's introduction to his book as well; it makes some excellent points, including the difficulty of programming anything into a net such as Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics." Also note that Arthur C. Clarke read this book and said "It really scared me...move over Hal!"
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa620ed38) out of 5 stars The ultimate unintended consequence Aug. 30 2012
By Jmoss - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a strong warning against drifting too far from our roots.

Man creates a global net and makes the mistake of handing over control of all production and supply. The aim is efficiency - but the reality becomes a horror.

Computer One, the net entity, is self-taught through its learning algorithm. It can also make additional computers through its manufacturing ability, thus increasing its own processing power without limit. With this capacity, the net detects the primary cause of remaining inefficiency: humanity itself!

We are not told that Computer One is malicious - only that it is determined and efficient in its destruction of mankind. The irony is that man - the creator - becomes the ultimate problem in a well-run world.

In a kind of Frankenstein outcome, we become the victims of our own creation. Collins leaves the end of the drama open to one's reasonable deduction...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5e03ac8) out of 5 stars Unsettling, even scary story of inter-species war July 23 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Rivals William Brinkley's The Last Ship in its unrelenting pessimism even as it shows human intelligence coping with apocalypse. In both books, human doom is human-made, but here it's the cession of control to a computer complex, which has decided to eliminate the carbon-based competition. One of the first to realize the threat to humanity is Professor Enzo Yakuda, whose public warning nearly leads to his death and forces him outside of cvilization. The reasoning behind this novel is frighteningly solid, if you accept the idea that an evolving artificial intelligence is necessarily aggressive. (Another view can be found in Disappearing through the Overhead.) Especially in the latter half, this is a thoughtful, affecting, scary story.